State to test water systems for harmful “forever chemicals”

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COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The state will test 1,500 public water systems next year looking for the presence of man-made chemicals called perflouroalkyl and polyflouroalkyl (PFAS).

The chemicals, sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals,” have been manufactured and used for years in thousands of products including nonstick cookware, waterproof fabrics, and stain-resistant carpets.

PFAS chemicals are very stable and do not easily breakdown – thus the nickname “forever chemicals.”

Some PFAS substances have been studied more than others and have been linked to a variety of health issues including increased cholesterol, increased risk of cancer, interfering with the development of infants and lowering a woman’s chance of getting pregnant.

Ground zero for the controversy over the use of PFAS has been southeast Ohio, where residents were exposed to chemicals released from the Dupont Washington Works plant on the Ohio River.

Their fight is the subject of a new movie called “Dark Waters” starring Mark Ruffalo.

Spokesperson Heidi Griesmer says the Ohio EPA expects to complete the testing of water supply systems in 2020.

“We are going to be testing 1,500 public water systems across the state that are systems where people live, work or go to school,” Griesmer said.

Griesmer said as a result of a settlement with Dupont, several public and private water systems in southeast Ohio are now tested and treated for the presence of PFAS.

In 2016, the U.S. EPA set a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFAS in drinking water.

Griesmer says the state of Michigan recently tested 1,700 water systems and found two with elevated levels.

“We don’t expect it to be rampant (in Ohio), but we don’t know and that is why we want to test,” Griesmer said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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